Thursday, April 30, 2015

Packing For Japan: Shoes And One Pretty Accessory

As I said in my last post I'm bringing only two pairs of shoes for our 9-day trip. This is not a large number of shoes, am I right ladies? So I had to make sure they were both super comfortable and as versatile as possible.

Obviously I needed a pair of lace-up sneakers for all the walking we'll be doing. These Born shoes are a few years old and I got them when I was on the hunt for shoes for Europe (back when we thought that's where we would be honeymooning). It's getting easier to find sneaks that are cute and can be worn with dresses and skirts in addition to jeans (love these from Everlane) but it's still a tall order. I love the "oxford" style of these which gives them a menswear-inspired look but the fact that they're light-colored keeps them feminine and pretty. Plus the arch support and padded soles means I can wear them all day. (I bought soft no-show socks to wear with them.)

(Here's a photo from my Instagram of me wearing them, and also the olive pants I'm packing.)

For lighter walking days, evenings when we are getting a bit more dressed up, and for temple-hopping which will require us to be constantly slipping our shoes on and off, I have these Franco Sarto leather flats. You know how some ballet flats barely cover the top of your foot at all, just your toes? I love these shoes because they come up a bit higher on the foot which makes them ten times more comfortable. I also popped these on the inside heel and now they feel just like slippers. 

In Japan there's a lot of taking off of shoes that happens, and not just in the temples. Apparently a lot of restaurants require it too and bare feet are a no-no. (A friend of mine warned me of this—thanks M!) So I plan to keep a pair of socks in my purse at all times so that I'll never be caught barefooted. Phew! Potential cultural crisis and general awkwardness averted.

I don't plan to bring any jewelry except for my wedding rings and the gold studs I always wear, so I'm counting on this scarf to lend me a little flair when I need it. It can be wrapped around my shoulders if I'm chilly or tied around my neck and it looks good with everything I'm bringing. Japan is a country of vibrant colors and I figured I needed something bright and floral to complement my neutrals. This will do the trick!

I'm almost done with these packing posts. I hope they've been fun/informative/helpful or that at the very least they've indulged your nosy side. (I love seeing how people pack for trips!) I've got one or two more posts planned, so stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Packing for Japan: Pants/Skirts/Dresses

I've heard from several sources (friends, travel guides, websites) that you should pack a bit on the dressier side for Japan. One friend told me she didn't seen anyone wearing blue jeans when she was in Japan last year and advised on nicer pants and skirts and dresses instead. A dressier society is something I can get on board with so I'm happily taking her suggestion!

Here's what I'm packing for bottoms: two pairs of pants, a pair of nice shorts, one casual day dress, and one fancy black skirt.

I've never had a pair of pants that fits better than these Paige jeans. My sister-in-law found them at T.J.Maxx and they were too long on her so she gave them to me! Best gift ever. These are the kind of stretch jeans that don't lose their shape even after multiple times wearing them which is great for travel. They will go with all of the tops I'm bringing (perks of neutral colors!) and I can roll up the bottoms if it gets hot. I think I'll wear them on the plane too. They're as comfy as leggings.

These Gap olive khaki pants hit mid-calf and have sort of a tomboyish fit. They make me feel a little rugged-chic, you know? If Japan had safaris, these are the pants I'd wear.

These shorts (with pockets!) are not your typical pair of shorts. They're a looser cut and almost look like a skirt. One day we're hiking up a mountain to see a castle and I'll probably wear these so that I don't completely melt.

This is the one dress I'm bringing--it's a casual daytime shift dress that's made of a nice sweatshirt type material. Not everyone likes to wear shapeless dresses but for my fairly straight figure it's one of my favorite looks. This one also has pockets and looks cute with the sneakers I'm bringing. (The dyed pattern sort of reminds me of Ace and Jig's prints--partly why I got it!)

I'm so excited about this high-waisted knee-length black skirt. My sweet mother-in-law got it for me when we were shopping at Banana Republic together. This is my replacement for a little black dress and to me, this is better--I can wear it with any of the tops I'm bringing (tucked in or tied in a knot to the side), swipe on some red lipstick, and instantly I'm ready for dinner or a night on the town. It's pretty and light and I feel good in it. This is my only "fancy" piece of clothing but I know I won't get tired of wearing it and changing my look a little bit each time.

This is it for clothing! I made one small addition to my tops pile--a thin long-sleeved emerald green shirt I'd been intending to pack but forgot about because it was in the laundry--so my total clothing count is now at 11 and it's staying at 11. I actually put everything in the bag I'm bringing and it was shocking how light it was and how much leftover room I had. Hooray!

Next up, shoes. (This one is a record for me. I'm bringing only TWO pairs.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Curried Quinoa With Raisins

This "recipe" for Curried Quinoa With Raisins (like a lot of my cooking) was born out of a mixture of inspiration and improvisation. The idea came from this photo posted by a lovely lady I follow on Instagram and I thought it sounded and looked so good--light yet warming and spicy and fragrant. I happened to have a few cups of cooked quinoa languishing in the fridge and since quinoa normally doesn't inspire me, I got to work right away before my creative mood disappeared.

First I heated some olive oil and sautéed one shallot and one clove of minced garlic for about a minute. I added the cooked quinoa next along with a healthy handful of raisins and just enough chicken broth to moisten the quinoa and to plump up the raisins. I stirred and cooked this for a few minutes before adding (completely to taste) kosher salt, a good amount of curry powder, and a bit of Garam Masala (this sounds fancy but if you like to cook Indian food every so often as I do, this is a fairly basic and easy-to-find spice blend to keep on hand). 

We topped it with creamy plain Greek yogurt because that's my favorite thing to put on all Indian-flavored food, and I have to say it was delicious. We ate it alongside crispy shrimp and an avocado/grapefruit salad but it could easily be a main dish. 

I could think of pretty much endless variations on this basic recipe--toss in some toasted almonds or pistachios, add some chickpeas, sauté fresh ginger with the garlic and shallot, use dried cherries instead of or in addition to the raisins, throw in baby kale or spinach for a little green. If you don't have cooked quinoa already in the fridge then just cook the quinoa first and proceed the same way. (You might be able to skip the chicken broth addition by cooking the quinoa in broth and not letting all of it completely absorb.)

Yum! I hope you try it!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Packing For Japan: Tops

This weekend I spent a few hours in the bedroom prancing around and trying things on and finalizing the list of things I'm bringing to Japan--and guess what? I'm packing only TEN pieces of clothing! For a ten day trip! Ask me if I'm proud of myself. (Enormously.)

I wrote last week about my plan to come up with a basic, neutral, mix-and-match-able wardrobe for this trip. Once I decided on that it was surprisingly easy to come up with the actual pieces I'd bring. Here are the tops I picked.

A simple, comfortable drapey black tank. This French Connection top goes with everything and can be dressy or casual. It's also super lightweight and breathable which is a must for the warm, humid weather we're expecting.

The three tees I'm bringing are all loose and flowy, which is my favorite and the most comfortable for travel, especially in hot temperatures. This Banana Republic striped tunic top is so soft and the cut is flattering and elegant which dresses up the fact that it's a t-shirt.

Of course I'm bringing my favorite Everlane Ryan tees in charcoal grey and white. These look so weird on the hanger but I can assure you they're very cute when you put them on. They're comfy and go with everything and can be dressed up when you tuck them into something pretty and high-waisted (hint hint) or tie a scarf around your neck.

This is the one pair of long sleeves I'm bringing. This sweater is cozy and a little boxy in a chic way and is loose enough that it can be thrown on over anything. I imagine I'll need this for flights and in the evenings if it cools down. I'm a little worried about the cream color being susceptible to stains but a black sweater just feels so wintery and formal.

And that's it for tops! 4 tees/tanks and one sweater. I may cheat a bit and wear my men's flannel button-down for the long 30 hours or so we'll be traveling before landing in Tokyo--I'm just thinking that whatever I wear for that initial travel I probably won't want to wear again, and all of these things need to be worn at least twice. So we'll see.

Next up are pants and shorts. I hope this is interesting/fun for you guys too? I'm just so excited about planning a travel wardrobe and packing lightly and efficiently. Thanks for humoring me as I share and count down the days until we go! One month from tomorrow!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Yesterday was so inspiring.

I performed in a chamber music concert in the morning for a group of fellow music teachers. To say that I was extremely nervous about it would be an understatement but the moment I began to play, the anxiety was replaced with an acute awareness of the majesty of the music. Performing is magical that way. It's like playing a piece for the first time in some ways, hearing it as the audience does, fresh and new.

In the afternoon my dear friend, neighbor, and sometimes-piano student came over to play me a medley she had written for her husband years ago. It was composed of a few of his favorite pieces--The Parting Glass from Waking Ned Devine, an Eagles song, Simple Gifts, a Scott Joplin tune. It made me tear up it was so gorgeous and heartfelt and so obviously inspired by the most real love.

Then in the evening I went to see a documentary called Seymour: An Introduction and just about melted into a puddle in my seat. It's about classical pianist and master teacher Seymour Bernstein and it was the most poignant tribute to art I think I've ever seen. Bernstein says that music is the "God inside us" and watching it, I got a familiar but at the same time rare feeling that I can only describe as intense gratitude for the music inside me, in my fingertips, in my soul. Gratitude that this art that touches me so deeply is my art, that of all the professions in the world this is the one I'm called to.

You know, the nervousness before a concert, the hours of practicing, the frustration and feelings of inadequacy that are inevitable in a life devoted to a craft, they can cloud you and bring you to dark places. I think it's because music is inherently soulful and it makes you vulnerable. It's so so hard to do justice to a late Beethoven sonata, a fugue by Bach. It takes such extraordinary effort and emotion. So when I am able to step back and be reminded, as I was over and over yesterday, of the richness and beauty and purity and sheer goodness that make up the tradition of music, it can be so profound and overwhelming it makes me cry.

All of music--the composers who make it, the poetry of art songs, the lessons we learn by studying it, the people who inspire it and whose names are written lovingly on manuscripts, the natural grace of the piano itself--all of it is our gift.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Packing For Japan: The Plan

I started thinking about packing for Japan just after booking our tickets and checking our safe to make sure our passports were still where I thought they were. With that important business out of the way my mind turned to more exciting things. How many Japanese words can I learn before May 21? What activities will we plan and which ones will we daringly improvise as we go? And of course, what should I wear that will make me both comfortable and cute?

Packing intentionally for big trips--i.e. packing lightly--has never been a strength of mine but I'm determined to turn over a new leaf. Partly because we are traveling internationally and hopping between two cities and I want to be mobile and not bogged down with stuff. Partly because the friends we're traveling with are super low-key and the opposite of high maintenance, and I'll be darned if I slow down the group because I was the pathetic one who over-packed. Partly because it seems like a fun challenge. Partly because I need room to bring home at least one kimono.

I've slowly been coming up with a plan. The first challenge is to mostly bring clothes and shoes I already have and buy only a few select things in preparation. The second challenge is figuring out the vessels I will use to transport everything and use daily while we're there. And overall my goal is to bring a small amount of carefully selected neutral basics, which can be mixed and matched and re-worn in different ways and sneakily modified depending on our circumstances. Comfort is high on my list of requirements for each piece of clothing, but I also want to look nice and put together and be able to dress up any of the outfits I bring.

In essence I'm creating a wardrobe for this trip--one that is simple, flexible, stylish, comfortable, and very much me--and I'm having a terrific time with it.

Stay tuned for more soon!

Friday, April 10, 2015

My Old Lady Beauty Ritual

I have a funny nightly ritual that I fondly think of as my old lady beauty ritual. After I've washed and moisturized my face and brushed my teeth I sit in bed and pull out a giant pot of super emollient cream from the cubby in my nightstand. I pat a little under my eyes and on my eyelids (experts say that eye cream is a bit of a hoax--any thick cream will do) and then I rub a generous amount of cream onto my whole neck, from my chin down to my collarbone. The skin on my neck tends to get dry and tight which can be uncomfortable so I take extra care of it. 

But then not too long ago I read somewhere that you can often tell the age of a woman by looking at her neck. What?? I guess the reasoning is that the skin on your neck is just as fine and delicate as the skin on your face but more likely to get neglected. Moisturizing it with your regular face cream is good but using an extra rich cream is better.

I'm not obsessive about anti-aging tricks and when it's my time for them, I say bring on the laugh lines and eye crinkles. But I think we could all do without neck wrinkles for as long as possible. Here's to hoping my little routine will stave those off for a good long while.

Do you have any quirky beauty rituals? Please share! And happy weekend, friends.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Have any of you read this book? Oh. My gosh. It's good. I've been listening to it on Audible because we had some credits to use up and this type of book (the psychological thriller type) is my favorite kind to listen to on tape. The characters become so vivid as you listen with closed eyes and something about being read to heightens the drama and suspense, which this book has in plenty. For a few days straight I've been listening to it on walks, in the tub, and today I'm finishing the last 45 minutes while I eat breakfast. 

I'm dying to know the ending!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. 
By His wounds you have been healed. / 1 Peter 2:24
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